Badalona, Spain — Authorities rescued 13 animals the group was preparing to slaughter. — An investigation conducted by an animal rights nonprofit in Spain resulted in authorities raiding a criminal organization that had been sacrificing animals during religious rituals.

AnimaNaturalis began investigating the group last year and turned over enough evidence to the Urban Guard of Badalona that the agency was able to interrupt the sacrifice of 13 animals on Oct. 23.

The cult, which had been sacrificing over a dozen animals every week for the past five years, was planning to slaughter a rooster, nine chickens and three quails as part of a Santeria ritual. The animals have since been taken to the Gaia Sanctuary Foundation.

One of the animals, a rooster, was saved from sacrifice. (AnimaNaturalis/Real Press)

Footage compiled by AnimaNaturalis after the investigation shows members inspecting a large trash bag that contained partially beheaded chickens. A baby goat with its head completely severed is then placed next to it. Another clip shows the 13 animals that were rescued.

“We watched the band for weeks, until one day, we managed to see how two men loaded with garbage bags came out of the portal,” Aïda Gascón, director of AnimaNaturalis, said in a press release. “They threw the bags into the container, and when they left, we went inside. The bodies of the animals, still warm, were decapitated.”

In addition to arresting those present during the ceremony for animal abuse, police are investigating four additional suspects who remain at large. If convicted, the suspects could face between six and 18 months in jail.

Animal welfare laws in the Catalonia region of Spain state that animals can only be slaughtered after being stunned, and such killings can only be performed in a slaughterhouse under the supervision of trained personnel, according to AnimaNaturalis. It is also illegal to dispose of animal carcasses in urban containers.

The live animals were discovered in boxes. (AnimaNaturalis/Real Press)

Santeria is an Afro-Cuban religion born out of the African diaspora that mixes the beliefs of the West African Yoruba religion with some elements of Catholicism. While the religion started in Cuba, it has since spread across Latin America, the United States and Europe via immigration. Those who practice Santeria often participate in animal sacrifices, which adherents believe can bring luck or love.

(Edited by Carlin Becker and Fern Siegel)

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